Given Aaron Sorkin's biopic track record and Steve Jobs' personality type, it makes perfect sense that Sorkin would sign on with Sony to write the adaptation of Walter Isaacson's biography of the late Apple founder. If the Steve Jobs movie (not to be confused with the already in production Ashton Kutcher film) depicts its subject as a monomaniac who does whatever it took to get things done, it will fit right in with Sorkin's oeuvre. His last three fictional film adaptations of non-fictional characters have all included figures with a certain drive to accomplish a task, which often compromises their social skills. The life of Steve Jobs, especially his reputation as a jerk who happened to change the way humanity interacts with technology, has Sorkin's name written all over it.
Charlie Wilson's War
Jerk: Charlie Wilson
Why He Got a Biopic: Wilson, a lowly Texas representative, managed to change the course of American history, as he worked with the CIA to sort of secretly arm the Afghan mujahedeen in a war against the Russian occupation.
What Makes Him a Jerk: From The New York Times' A.O Scott's review: Wilson is "An unapologetic womanizer — the type whose lechery seems like a higher form of gallantry." Wilson was both a known ladies man and drinker and who had an affinity for "snorting blow" as Scott puts it. The movie's opening scene has him surrounded by beautiful women in a hottub -- to give an idea. "Wilson was a hard-working and hard-drinking lawmaker from east Texas whose personal antics, both inside and outside his congressional office, were legendary," wrote NPR after Wilson's death.
How He Used His Jerkiness to Succeed: As played by Tom Hanks, Wilson comes off as more jovial than the other Sorkin jerks. But, like our other characters Wilson did what he had to do to get things done, even if that meant acting in a way others wouldn't like. Take the belly dancing scene, where Wilson hires a friend to basically have stage sex while he has diplomatic talks with Isreali and Afghan diplomats. That's borderline offensive and definitely unconventional, especially when working with religious Muslims. But it worked. "There is nonetheless a bracing, cheering present-day moral to be found in Charlie Wilson’s story," writes Scott. "A reminder that high principles are not incompatible with the pleasure principle."
The Social Network
Jerk: Mark Zuckerberg
Why He Got a Biopic: He created the next multi-billion dollar, American way of life-changing, corporation from his dorm room.
What Makes Him a Jerk: Per the movie, he stepped on a few people -- the Winkelvoss Twins, Eduardo Saverin -- to get to where he is today. He also treated that girlfriend in the opening scene like a jerk. And, he maybe has Asperger's syndrome. Plus, in general, he's just an awkward, sweaty guy.
How He Used His Jerkiness to Succeed: The movie's tagline, as you can see on the poster, says it all. But, to get specific, he maybe stole the idea from the Winkelvoss twins. He backstabbed Saverin out of money. And, the general impetus for the network was to rate girls' hotness.
Jerk: Billy Beane
Why He Got a Biopic: As the General Manager of the Oakland A's, Beane turned the team from one of the poorest in the franchise into real competition for the rich franchises.
What Makes him a Jerk: From The New York Times' Manohla Dargis's review of the film: "Coiled yet cool, Billy has the liquid physical grace and bright eyes of a predator. He was built to win." Even before the movie he had a reputation for a temper. "Mention Beane to an A's fan and often times, you get people talking about the hyper-competitive guy who throws chairs, has little respect for managers and doesn't care for old school scouts," wrote SB Nation founder Tyler Bleszinski of Beane.
How He Used his Jerkiness to Succeed: He kept going with his crazy idea, even when people didn't believe him. He was also meticulous in his understanding of the game from a statistical perspective. It takes that type of attention to detail (and drive to win) to craft statistics that work.
The Steve Jobs Movie
Jerk: Steve Jobs
Why He'll Get a Biopic: iPhone, iPod, iPad. After his death, he was compared to a modern day Thomas Edison.
What Makes Him a Jerk: Have you read that anecdote about making Foxconn factory workers labor extra shifts because he didn't like the iPhone screen? Also, per his FBI file, he didn't treat his own employees with respect.
How He Used His Jerkiness to Succeed: It was that very attention to detail and perfectionism that drove him to create those beloved Apple products.
These jerks have more in common than their unconventional personae. They were complex characters, whose minds both worked for them and against them. It was their very quirks that drove them to genius and, with the help of Sorkin, the silver screen.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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